Dihydrogen Monoxide: Hazard?

Dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

Dihydrogen monoxide:
- is the major component of acid rain
- contributes to the "greenhouse effect"
- it can cause severe burns in its gaseous state
- contributes to erosion
- accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals
- may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes
- has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients

Despite the dangers, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:
- as an industrial solvent and coolant.
- as an ingredient in concrete.
- in nuclear power plants.
- in the production of styrofoam.
- as a fire retardant.
- in many forms of cruel animal research.
- as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.

Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal.

The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation." In fact, the navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.

Chemical Formula: H2O.

Other Names: Product also known as water, ice, and steam.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and other disclosures of potential product hazards are vital to protecting public and environmental health, safety, and welfare. Still, the testing, documentation, and record-keeping requirements can be an onerous burden. For anyone who has ever felt rankled in this regard, I hope the preceding warning brings a smile to your face.

Based on Petition to Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide at www.petitiononline.com/h2o/petition.html.

An Earthshaking Opportunity

I felt the earth move last week, even though I was hundreds of miles from the epicenter of the earthquake. It was a reminder of the near certainty that there will be a major, devastating earthquake in the US in the near future.

We all know that individuals, businesses, and institutions must plan for earthquakes and other disasters, building product manufacturers can also plan ahead.
As the map shows, earthquake (and tsunami) opportunities are not just for the West Coast market. Indeed, faults in the Midwest and near large population centers of the East Coast are more vulnerable to loss of property and life.

Advances in building standards usually occur in response to natural disasters. As scientists, underwriters, and policymakers study the lessons learned from quakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, and Japan, more stringent building codes are likely to emerge.

But there is no need for you to wait until then. Now is the time to take a fresh look at your product offering to determine if your products can help create safer buildings. Give me a call if you want to discuss your opportunities; your initial call is always free. I look forward to hearing from you.

Red Listed Products

Living Building Challenge Version 2
Acceptance is growing for a "Red List" of materials that are considered environmentally hazardous. The Red List, created by Living Building Challenge, precludes usage of the following:
  • Asbestos
  • Cadmium
  • Chlorinated Polyethylene and Chlorosulfonated Polyethlene
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Chloroprene (Neoprene)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Halogenated Flame Retardants
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Petrochemical Fertilizers and Pesticides
  • Phthalates
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Wood treatments containing creosote, arsenic or pentachlorophenol
These compounds are found in many building materials; finding and adopting suitable alternatives will require a significant investment for many manufacturers.

The investment may be worthwhile, however, since the number of developers prohibiting Red List materials is increasing. For example, Google is among organizations that have banned the use of Red List products. Google is alleged to be building facilities at the rate of 40,000 sq. ft. a week.

Anthony Ravitz, Google’s project coordinator for real estate and workplace services, says the firm's decision is based on an economic analysis of the true costs of using a material, including the health and vitality of its employees and avoiding expensive claims for illness due to exposure to potentially dangerous materials. He calls upon manufacturers to provide better transparency about what is in their products, saying, “We don’t have complete information about what’s in our products. It’s not readily available. Until we have that, it will be difficult to make the best decisions.”

10 Best New Building Products of 2010

At the end of each year, the staff at Chusid Associates nominates and votes on its list of the Ten Best New Building Products of the year.  Our intention was to blog about all ten, but we got busy and only managed to write about a few of the winners. Without delaying the project further, here is our truncated list:

The pace of innovation continues. The tough economic times are actually proving a boon to some companies, as they use the opportunity for research and launching new products that, in the continual press of sales during a good year, would normally get buried. Several of this year's entries are innovations on ages-old problems, while others represent the intersection of several cutting-edge technological developments. A few were included not because the actual products were significant, but because of the trends they represent.

1. Plasma Lighting: Solid state lighting, in the form of LEDs, have been a major trend for the past few years. Now plasma lighting is taking the spotlight, offering in some cases twice the lumens per Watt of LEDs. Right now most of the plasma lighting available is for stadium and street lamp-sized installations, but miniaturization to commercial and industrial scale seems inevitable.

Multiquip's H2LT Hydrogen Fueled Light Tower drew a lot of attention at World of Concrete for combining low-energy, high-intensity light with quiet, low-polluting hydrogen fuel cells. The plasma light bulb produces 22,000 lumens while consuming only 255 watts, with a life expectancy of up to 50,000 hours. Beyond its energy efficiency, the tower made our list for one simple reason: it is sparking imaginations. At the show, people were walking away from the Multiquip booth discussing new ways and places they could use this technology, sewing the seeds for the next generation of innovations.

This all-glass wall is energy efficient.
2. Phase-Change Insulated Glass: Another ripe field for innovations is combining multiple successful technologies into a single high-performing system. This becomes especially important in sustainable design when building systems often need a higher level of flexibly to meet multiple design objectives simultaneously; natural daylighting is advantageous, for example, but too much interferes with the building's thermal performance and energy use.

Glass-X, from Greenlight Glass, addresses exactly this problem. The core of the system is phase-changing glass that stores or releases thermal energy in the process of converting from solid to liquid states. Glass-X controls thermal transfer, essentially creating virtual thermal mass to help warm or cool the interior as needed. A prism system takes advantage of seasonal changes in the sun's position to reflect hot summer light, while allowing more light, and heat, transfer in winter months.

Glass is one of our favorite building materials around the office; the amount of versatility and innovation in glass construction is staggering, and the trend looks set to continue for the next few decades. The next winner is another glass product.

3. Bird-Visible Glass: When I was five I once ran full-speed into a closed glass door, face first, so I have a lot of sympathy for birds flying into windows. The problem is so prevalent that it has become embedded in our culture; birds hitting windows is an instantly recognizable slapstick troupe. But the real-world side is not funny; estimates are that almost 1 billion birds are killed by window collisions in the US each year.

Ornalux glass has special ultraviolet patterns that are visible to birds, but not detectable by the human eye. This means birds see the window and identify it as an obstacle, and humans get to enjoy natural lighting and an unobstructed view.

Click here for our 2009 list. And stay tuned for our best of 2011 list.

Triangle Fire Legacy

March 25, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire in New York City that killed 146 workers. This tragic event focused attention on fire safety in construction, and accelerated the acceptance of tighter building codes and life-safety regulations.

The Fire illustrates how disasters are frequently the progenitor of new construction technologies. Reforms sparked by the incident led to mandatory usage of many building products we now take for granted, including:
  • Panic bars on exit doors.
  • Automatic fire sprinklers.
  • Fire alarm systems.
  • Fire-resistant glass at egress paths.
This cause and effect relationship continues: Environmental disasters spawn sustainable construction. Hurricanes bring demands for airborne missile testing of wall systems. And floods inundate us with innovation.

The only way to redeem a tragedy is to learn from it.

Good advice, in any language

Watch this:

This short video from Vodafone is remarkable for two reasons.

First, it's an excellent reminder to us all to be more aware of our computing environment. (As I type this I realize I've let myself slouch in my chair again. One moment please...that's better!) We as a species are still adapting to our sedentary lifestyle, and the stresses of sitting and computing all day can be very damaging to your body. Please take care of yourself: give your workstation an ergonomic upgrade, take regular breaks from your computer, stretch and move around, and stay well-hydrated.

In addition to the importance of the message is the way in which it is delivered. The video's title, descriptive text, and most of the comments are in Spanish, but the content is delivered so it transcends any language barrier. Using simple, clear animation they make a frequently confusing topic simple and universally accessible.

Flood-Resistance Research

More about the growing need for flood-resistant building products:

If you wanted to design a more flood-resistant building, there is little data on the forces created by surging water in buildings. An Australian scientist, Richard Brown, took advantage of the recent floods there to instrument a building. Among key findings:
  • Debris carried along by the water acts like battering rams.
  • Speed of water flow can vary rapidly. Flows of 0.3 m per second – a rate at which an average person can still stand up – could change within 40 seconds 1.8 m per second, Richard says.
  • Smooth floors offered no resistance or interruption to the flow.
The investigator says "this sort of information will assist architects and designers to build safer buildings with railings, places of refuge or ways to slow water flow," We add that it can also benefit product manufacturers.  More info.

Flood Resistant Products

I have written recently about the growing opportunities for flood-resistant building products. Here is an exciting new product that addresses this need:
The High Tide Escape Hatch can be installed between roof rafters, and opens easily to allow people to escape through their roof. For anyone building in a low laying area, it has now become irresponsible to not provide this type of egress.

What new products will you introduce to address the concerns about flooding?

Cement Emissions and Social Justice

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final rules that will protect Americans' health by cutting emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. The rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs. Mercury can damage children's developing brains, and particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of serious health effects, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
I have a personal connection to this news item:

A friend of mine did her Ph.D. dissertation monitoring emissions from cement plants to document their pollution. Plant operators were not cooperative with her research. They would ban her from access to their sites and, if they discovered her setting up monitoring stations downwind, would temporarily modify production to artificially reduce emissions.

Understanding and reducing pollution was only one aspect of her research. Social justice was another. Cement plants, she explained, are usually located in "economically disadvantaged" neighborhoods that lacked the resources to oppose the pollution. The children with the least access to medical care, she observed, were the ones bearing the brunt of the toxic emissions from cement plants.

Social justice is fundamental to sustainable construction.  The Hannover Principles, a set of succinct guideposts to sustainable construction puts "human rights" at the top of its list of criteria for green construction.

I am sure the EPA's new guidelines do not satisfy my friend. Still, I salute her work for helping make the EPA's efforts possible.

Her research is published in the following (emphasis added):

"Wet deposition of mercury within the vicinity of a cement plant before and during cement plant maintenance, Atmospheric Environment (March 2010)

Abstract: Hg species (total mercury, methylmercury, reactive mercury) in precipitation were investigated in the vicinity of the Lehigh Hanson Permanente Cement Plant in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA., USA. Precipitation was collected weekly between November 29, 2007 and March 20, 2008, which included the period in February and March 2008 when cement production was minimized during annual plant maintenance. When the cement plant was operational, the volume weighted mean (VWM) and wet depositional flux for total Hg (HgT) were 6.7 and 5.8 times higher, respectively, compared to a control site located 3.5 km east of the cement plant. In February and March, when cement plant operations were minimized, levels were approximately equal at both sites (the ratio for both parameters was 1.1). Due to the close proximity between the two sites, meteorological conditions (e.g., precipitation levels, wind direction) were similar, and therefore higher VWM HgT levels and HgT deposition likely reflected increased Hg emissions from the cement plant. Methylmercury (MeHg) and reactive Hg (Hg(II)) were also measured; compared to the control site, the VWM for MeHg was lower at the cement plant (the ratio ¼ 0.75) and the VWM for Hg(II) was slightly higher (ratio ¼ 1.2), which indicated the cement plant was not likely a significant source of these Hg species to the watershed.

"Evidence for short-range transport of atmospheric mercury to a rural, inland site," Atmospheric Environment (March 2010)

Abstract: Atmospheric mercury (Hg) species, including gaseous elemental mercury (GEM), reactive gaseous mercury (RGM) and particulate-bound mercury (Hgp), were monitored near three sites, including a cement plant (monitored in 2007 and 2008), an urban site and a rural site (both monitored in 2005 and 2008). Although the cement plant was a significant source of Hg emissions (for 2008, GEM: 2.20 =/- 1.39 ng m-3, RGM: 25.2 =/- 52.8 pg m-3, Hgp 80.8 =/- 283 pg m-3), average GEM levels and daytime average dry depositional RGM flux were highest at the rural site, when all three sites were monitored sequentially in 2008 (rural site, GEM: 2.37 =/- 1.26 ng m-3, daytime RGM flux: 29 =/- 40 ng m-2 day-1). Photochemical conversion of GEM was not the primary RGM source, as highest net RGM gains (75.9 pg m-3, 99.0 pg m-3, 149 m-3) occurred within 3.0-5.3 h, while the theoretical time required was 14e23 h. Instead, simultaneous peaks in RGM, Hgp, ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide in the late afternoon suggested short-range transport of RGM from the urban center to the rural site. The rural site was located more inland, where the average water vapor mixing ratio was lower compared to the other two sites (in 2008, rural: 5.6 =/- 1.4 g kg-1, urban: 9.0 =/- 1.1 g kg-1, cement plant: 8.3 =/- 2.2 g kg-1). Together, these findings suggested short-range transport of O3 from an urban area contributed to higher RGM deposition at the rural site, while drier conditions helped sustain elevated RGM levels. Results suggested less urbanized environments may be equally or perhaps more impacted by industrial atmospheric Hg emissions, compared to the urban areas from where Hg emissions originated.

5 Uses for QR Codes in Construction

QR code for www.buildingproductmarketing.com
I am giving a presentation today on QR Codes for the local AAF chapter. The question I get most, besides "What are QR Codes?", is "How can I use these in my industry?" With that in mind, we brainstormed a list of five ways QR codes could become useful in construction.

First, a word of explanation. QR codes are two-dimensional bar codes that are readable using smartphones or webcams. The essentially operate as a hyperlink that connects printed media to the digital world; scanning a QR code does the same thing as clicking on a link, and can provide most of the same functionality.

What does that mean? Here are five examples:
  1. Link to Technical Information: This is the use I am most excited about. Imagine you are on a job site, trying to figure out how to install some new product. Spotting a QR code, you pull out your phone, scan it, and - BOOM! - the installation instructions and data sheets pop up. Contractors may not have internet access on job sites, but most carry a phone with a camera. Inspections could make use of this, comparing the actual site to the plans. Architects looking at the product sample sitting on their shelf can use it to get the guide specs in a single click.
  2. Jobsite Signage: Many manufacturers have trouble figuring out how to display their company name and contact information on the job site. Complicating the matter, interested prospects may forget your name and phone number before they have a chance to call. Include a QR code on your signs, and they can instantly add your contact information to their phone book, open your website, or email a rep.
  3. Emergency Contact Information: QR codes can auto-dial phone numbers, open webpages, or send pre-written fill-in-the-blanks emails. This could earn them a place on HSW sheets, making it easier to quickly reach poison control or emergency services. Or maybe they are directed to someone in your company, so you are informed of the situation and can respond appropriately. For that matter, they could even link to video first aid guides.
  4. Project Information in Photos: Put a QR code on the page next to project photos, and readers can quickly access online information about the project. This could be a case study, real-time energy savings, or even a map with driving directions.
  5. Sales Literature and Business Cards: This last one is not construction-specific, but it is important. Like with job signs, putting a QR code on your printed sales collateral and business cards makes it much easier for people to contact you, and therefore more likely to actually call you instead of just dropping your card in the trash.

QR codes are huge in Japan, and are just now reaching critical density in the US. Relatively new organizations like Semapedia.org encourage readers to "Hyperlink your world!" As adoption spreads, I anticipate many innovative uses within our industry.

How would you use QR codes in construction? Tell us in the comments.

Antimicrobial Products to be Reviewed by FDA

Chusid Associates has previously warned against the use of antimicrobial agents in building materials. We have cited their lack of efficacy in preventing or controlling disease, exaggerated marketing claims that skirt legal restrictions, and the potential for antimicrobial abuse to spawn drug-resistant pathogens.

Now, there is yet another concern. The leading antimicrobial products are dangerous to human health.

The synthetic antimicrobial agent triclosan - marketed under the name Microban(R) - is found in numerous products both durable and consumable.  This is includes certain materials used as countertops and food prep surfaces, wall surfacing materials and upholstery, hardware and plumbing trim.  It also includes a host of antimicrobial soaps and similar personal care and household products.

The FDA is going to review the use of such products at the behest of U.S. Rep Edward Markey (MA), who introduced a bill in congress banning the use of triclosan in personal care products. Restrictions against the products in building materials could follow.

If you are building with materials that contain triclosan or Microban, or if you're specifying such materials, you might want to read this article:


ICC Call for Increased Seismic Protection in Midwest will Create New Market

The International Code Conference (ICC) has issued a statement calling for stricter enforcement in the Midwest of building code requirements for seismic resistance. Their press release reads, in part:
In the past few months, we all looked on in dismay and profound sadness as we read and heard the news about earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. The differences between lives lost and property damage from earthquakes are unequivocally related to the enforcement, or lack of enforcement, of building safety codes.  Chile’s quake was a 8.8 magnitude, 500 times more powerful than the earthquake that hit Haiti but its toll in both lives lost and property damage was nowhere near as devastating. Chile, like the United States, uses and enforces building codes.

Unfortunately, even in our own country there is a tendency to ignore the obvious. About 200 years ago, four major quakes ranging from 7.0 to 8.0 hit the New Madrid region, covering eight states,  including the cities of Memphis (Tenn.), Nashville (Tenn.), St. Louis and Little Rock (Ark.), causing the Mississippi River to run upstream and church bells to ring in Boston.

We know that a similar quake in this region today would be one of the worst disasters in American history causing tens of thousands of deaths, displacing hundreds of thousands, not to mention the hundreds of billions in economic losses.

And yet despite everything we have witnessed and everything we know, code officials in the New Madrid region of our country are struggling to persuade local and state governments to keep the seismic provisions that are in the codes developed by the International Code Council and used throughout the nation.
Building smart saves lives and money.  Let’s not be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Structural material manufacturers with an eye on the penny (and the pound) should take note. Building code requirements almost always tighten after major disasters. There may be more Midwestern opportunities, in the near future, to sell products that contribute to seismic safety.

What California's Green Building Code means to building product manufacturers

This week , the California Building Standards Commission unanimously adopted mandatory Green Building Standards Code (CALGREEN) requiring all new buildings in the state to be more energy efficient and environmentally responsible. Taking effect on January 1, 2011, these comprehensive regulations will achieve major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and water use. This will have a profound impact on many categories of building products. California is often a barometer for trends in other states, so this is significant regardless of where you firm does business.

Chusid Associates is offering a FREE CONSULTATION to building product manufacturers who wish to better understand the potential impact of this new code.

The State anticipates the new code will help meet its goals of curbing global warming and achieving 33 percent renewable energy by 2020 and promoteing development of more sustainable communities by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy efficiency in every new home, office building or public structure.

Among the new requirements, CALGREEN will require that every new building constructed in California:
  • Reduce water consumption by 20 percent,
  • Divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills,
  • Install low pollutant-emitting materials.
  • Requires separate water meters for nonresidential buildings’ indoor and outdoor water use,
  • Requirement for moisture-sensing irrigation systems for larger landscape projects
  • Mandatory inspections of energy systems (e.g., heat furnace, air conditioner and mechanical equipment) for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet to ensure that all are working at their maximum capacity and according to their design efficiencies.
The state anticipates raising the bar further as time passes, and includes provisions to encourage local communities to take further action to green their buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and conserve our natural resources.

CALGREEN provisions will be inspected and verified by local and state building departments. Upon passing state building inspection, California’s property owners will have the ability to label their facilities as CALGREEN compliant without using additional costly third-party certification programs.

Click here for additional information about CALGREEN. Click here to download a draft of the new code. And contact Chusid Associates for your FREE CONSULTATION.

Where will your next great marketing idea come from?

If you are reading only the design and construction trade publications, you will usually be following the market rather than creating them.

I was thinking about this while reading Journal of Healthcare Protection Management, Vol 25 No 2, a journal published by International Association of Healthcare Safety and Security. Its articles are written mostly by healthcare facility management professionals and discuss concerns that may still be below the radar of designers and the building product manufacturers that serve the industry.

For example, an article by David Corbin, "Designing a 'Safe Room' on a Medical Nursing Unit Floor" describes an experiment at Faulkner Hospital, Boston. They observed an increase in violence by "at risk" patients. Following
extensive planning, they remodeled a patient room so it could be used with patients deemed to be a security risk, but without the sterility of a prison or psych hospital room. The table below identifies some of the changes. (Click to enlarge.)Note that it the changes affect hardware, cabinetry, communication systems, plumbingware, specialties, and other types of building materials. While this was one room in one hospital, it could mark a trend that may expand to include the hardening of walls, lighting, finishes, etc.

Another article in the same issue, "The SEO (Security Entrance Officer): A Wave of the Future of Healthcare Security," by Edward Panell, describes efforts by a hospital in Seattle to provide better control of entry into its facility. By the time a phenomenon becomes a TLA (Three Letter Acronym), it may well be on its way towards becoming a wave. While the Seattle Hospital solved its problems with aggressive staffing, it is possible to imagine that future hospitals may require different types of entrances, hardware, controls, monitoring equipment, and other building products.

When Chusid Associates did an extensive healthcare market research project in the 1980s, it was a time when the trend was to make hospitals "warmer" and more accessible. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging. One of our clients is already profiting from the increased security in healthcare.

Trends like these are occurring in all building types. Building product manufacturers who want to be leaders in their market segments should monitor leading indicators, and conduct fresh market research on a regular basis.

Anti-Microbial Treatments - Benefit or Risk?

At Chusid Associates, our first obligation is to stewardship of the environment. With that in mind, we are concerned about the possible hazard posed by "antimicrobial" treatments on building products. The following are excerpts from market research we conducted several years ago:

There is worldwide concern in the increasing use of antimicrobial-treated products. This trend is most apparent in consumer goods. In architecture, antimicrobial treatments are offered for door handles, toilet seats, HVAC equipment, countertops and some other products. Companies may feel the need to compete by adding these products to their lines but are these actually good products or could they be backfiring, resulting in severe health concerns?
U.S. pesticide regulations severely limit health-related claims that can be made about the use of an antimicrobial treatment. Under US regulations, a manufacturer can claim that an antimicrobial makes surfaces easier to clean and reduces the potential for odor. It cannot say, however, that it will reduce the spread of infections. Since many building materials are already easy to clean and do not promote odors, the benefits of an antimicrobial treatment are based on the public’s fear of “germs” and its faith in aggressive hygiene. As a point of reference, consider that millions of dollars are spent in the U.S. every year on chemicals to make toilet bowls clean enough to drink from, even though no one drinks from them.

European regulations appear to be more lenient. I am aware that of an international manufacturer that says, on its EU website, that their antimicrobial-treated products provide "antibacterial protection that helps fight the growth of micro-organisms such as mold and harmful bacteria such as E.Coli, Salmonella, Listeria, Staphlococcus and the MRSA superbug." However, they do not give data saying how effective the surfacing is against these microbes, and this type of language is absent from their US site.

There is growing concern that long term and widespread use of antimicrobials may breed antimicrobial-resistant microbes and pose an even greater danger. Some antimicrobials weaken organisms but allow resistant populations to survive and reproduce.

Market segments most likely to be interested in antimicrobial treatments include residential and healthcare. In the residential market, interest in an antimicrobial product is driven by a consumer’s generalized sense of concern for “giving their family the best protection there is”. Few consumers will be aware of concerns about the breeding of pesticide-resistant microbes.

In the specification-driven healthcare sector, the keys are regulatory approval, serviceability, demonstrated protection against contamination and the spread of disease, and cost.

It would be logical for the food service industry to be interested in antimicrobial treatments. We believe, however, that it will be years before that industry moves beyond the NSF requirement as its standard of care.

Ultimate acceptance of an antimicrobial product is dependent upon being able to demonstrate clear mission-specific benefits (lower infection rates or reduce housekeeping costs) due to the use of the treatment. Ultimately, a record of proven benefits to be derived from antimicrobials may lead to regulatory requirements or industry best practices requiring antimicrobial surfaces. The potential this type of research seems remote at present given 1) most health care construction is regulated by state agencies and could possibly require an expensive and time-consuming process of getting on the approved products list of these regulators as well as selling to facility managers and design professionals, and 2) current U.S. laws that demand costly proof and registration before claiming health-related benefits. More, the health care sector will be sensitive to concerns about breeding of pesticide-resistant microbes.

In many cases, a manufacturer's move to add an antimicrobial appears to be driven more by promotional considerations than by gains in product performance. As the first in category to introduce this product, a manufacturer would have an opportunity to get excellent press and salesmen have a new feature to discuss.

In our limited discussions with architects and other design professionals, there was limited awareness of antimicrobial treatments. Most respondents expressed interest but felt unable to make any reasonable assessments about the value of antimicrobial because of the lack of meaningful technical data presented. Healthcare architects were generally of the opinion that an antimicrobial treatment would not negate the need for stringent cleaning and sterilization, and thus were skeptical about the benefit of antimicrobials without data substantiating performance benefits.

We found no credible, independent source that recommended antimicrobial treatments as a prudent measure to improve health or housekeeping concerns.

For more on this topic, see www.buildingproduct.guru/2009/12/var-gajshost-https-document.html

Engineering your Brand

"It is time that we quite seeing seeing ourselves as merely designing beams and columns, and start recognizing and proclaiming that we save lives for a living."

That's the advice given by a structural engineer in a recent article in Structure Magazine. It is good advice that many building product manufacturers can profit from.

For example, it isn't just a door -- it is a way to protect people from fire and smoke. Not just a screw -- but protection from injury due to falling building components.

I became an architect because I saw the nobility of protecting the public health, safety, and welfare through design. I became a consultant to building product manufacturers when I realized that building materials were the tools architects use to protect the public.